Nostalgia & Reality

The much-too-late downfall of Cardinal McCarrick, whom I never knew personally but admired by reputation for many years, is the most recent of the ongoing flood of scandals challenging the Church. I don’t think the flood is subsiding, and I suspect there are undoubtedly more challenges and scandals about to cascade down the spillway, In fact, in my humble estimation, an essential question has not been systematically investigated: what was the role of the sainted but rigidly flawed pope whom many feel was the first bishop of Rome in 1,200 years to merit the title “The Great.” Yes, Pope St. John Paul II consistently turned a blind eye to reports of clerical abuse and episcopal cover-up. He was brilliant, holy, and effective in so many ways during his super-long pontificate, but his flaws have also been obvious to any critical observer – and his successors are facing a clean-up job exacerbated by secrecy and neglect.

Tom Hoopes usually has a brilliant and pointed take on faith and life, and his article addressing the latest chapter of ecclesial scandal is no exception. Many Catholics today, I think, are afflicted with a memory of the Church distorted by thick, rose-colored glasses. Nostalgia usually longs for a world that never was, that exists only in a conveniently filtered memory. (That’s true in the political order too.)

It’s worth reading and reflecting on what Tom’s experience of marriage has to say about our attitude toward our flawed-yet-beloved Church. Do we long for a Church that never really existed?

I once developed a theory that more marriages are lost to nostalgia than anything else.

It came back to me as I was reading disillusioned takes on the latest Church scandals.

One author declared that “the Catholic Church is a cesspool.” Another wrote longingly that he and his friends thought the problems in the Church would go away as older clerics aged, but that they were wrong.

I think both ideas misunderstand the Church. I blame nostalgia.

My worry about nostalgia started when I was taking the garbage out at one of the first places I lived as a married man. . . .

Read the rest of Tom’s article here.

P.S. It’s worth pointing out that the much-admired St. Peter’s Basilica was the product of more than one corrupt popes’ egos and served as a major precipitating cause of Luther’s revolt. Note also that the above photo depicts St. Peter’s at sunrise, not sunset. The light is coming from the east. There may be symbolism here worth considering.

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